Goldman Sachs catches up to AAHA on performance

Transparency in performance reviews. Continuous feedback. Peer check-ins. No year-end surprises.

Goldman Sachs has finally caught on to what AAHA Press author Karen Parker, DVM, has been putting into practice for years: if you want your team members to really shine, give them feedback every chance you get.

The financial giant’s new effort was splashed on the front page of The Wall Street Journal’s Business and Finance section on April 22. The newspaper also sang the praises of Netflix, Microsoft and FedEx for their efforts to manage employee performance with transparency, fairness, and face-to-face chats.

They could have ripped a page from the Parker’s veterinary playbook.

“Many team members – especially younger ones – are accustomed to collaboration and constant communication. These team members will benefit from, and be reassured by, regular check-ins,” Dr. Parker writes in A Practical Guide to Managing Employee Performance in Veterinary Practices.

But regular feedback isn’t just for Millennials, Dr. Parker adds. “Even long-term team members need regular feedback, sometimes even on a day-to-day basis.”

This is not your father’s feedback. “Check-ins are seen as updating the status of a project, as defined by a goal, rather than an opportunity for criticism,” Dr. Parker cautions.

What sets performance management apart is its combination of reviews and ongoing feedback to focus on improving an employee’s value to the practice. For managers, that means a mix-and-match of different types of reviews that will help the team member soar.

Goal-driven reviews happen year round, shortly after the deadline for achieving a goal. Where’s the value in waiting eight or nine months after a goal is accomplished (or not) to give feedback on it?

Calendar-driven reviews work for ongoing or evolving goals that are not tied to a specific deadline. While this includes the dreaded “Annual Review,” that is always part of a plan for interim check-ins and year-round feedback.

Fix-it reviews address problems in the moment. These are quick and immediate and to-the-point. You see a staff member loading dog food into his car, and note he hasn’t paid for it. You overhear the veterinarian fighting with his wife on the phone. A technician is slowing down on the job because she’s taking classes at night school. A quick, five-minute conversation in the moment is all these staffers need to remind them of your expectations for professional behavior.

Recognition reviews congratulate team members for providing excellent service to pets, clients and colleagues. “Achievements … deserve special recognition and a formal commendation,” Dr. Parker notes – AND a verbal pat on the back.

Daily feedback helps team members stay focused on their own progress and the practice’s goals. Don’t let a day pass without telling the receptionist how well she handled a difficult client or giving kudos to a veterinarian for how she handled a difficult case.

“Those are not comments that should wait for a scheduled review,” Dr. Parker writes. “Talk to your team members frequently, and let them know you are tuned in to their struggles and successes.”

A Goldman Sachs memo, quoted in WSJ, explained the changes to Goldman Sachs’s performance evaluation system this way: “Our employees want to know where they stand at all times.”

That’s what we’ve been saying for years, Dr. Parker says. “People are typically more satisfied when they feel their employer is as committed to them as they are to the employer.”


Karen Parker, DVM, is author of A Practical Guide to Managing Employee Performance in Veterinary Practices, featuring insights, advice and a website with free job descriptions for every role in the practice team, plus forms to use for reviews, discipline commendations, and more.